When you say “koala,” one of the things that will probably come to your mind is Australia. However, it seemed that the Land Down Under has done something to one of its iconic animals that is generally frowned upon by most animal rights activists. A report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation revealed that almost 700 koalas were euthanized in Victoria State. It also revealed that the “secret cull” was done in 2013 and 2014.
Government officials explained that the euthanization was to address over population among these cute and cuddly animals. They said many of these animals were already in bad health and starving.
“It is clear it’s an overpopulation issue, and it is clear that we have had koalas suffer in that Cape Otway area because of ill health and starvation. That’s just not good enough, and that’s a terrible way to treat koalas. I’m wanting to make sure that we’re taking the best action we can in this terrible situation of overpopulation. I don’t want to see koalas suffer,” said Environment Minister Lisa Neville.
Environmental scientist Desley Whisson also clarified that the incident was hardly a secret. She explained that it was not a secret cull but “a program implemented to reduce the suffering of starving koalas.” And despite earlier reports, there were no attempts to hide information regarding the program.
Experts blamed the worsening condition of koalas in Cape Otway to the decline of the animals’ food supply. Koalas rely on manna gum trees for their daily nourishment. However, many of the trees have died, resulting in a famine with devastating consequences.
Frank Fotinas, whose company allows tourists to “camp under koalas,” said the whole cape “smelled of dead koalas.” There are also hundreds of acres of dead trees in the area. “Koalas are great for business, but if there are no trees, there’s no koalas,” Mr Fotinas said.
Although the koala is not listed as endangered in Australia, many environmental experts believe that it is “under great threat” due to urbanisation and the massive destruction of the animal’s natural habitat. The Australia Zoo, the conservation organisation run by the family of the late Steve Irwin, said at least 80% of original koala habitat in Australia has been destroyed since the arrival of European settlers in the country.
Mr Fotinas urged the government to do something about the plight of the koalas. However, many believe that Prime Minister Tony Abbott is not much of an environmentalist.